Change control procedure for building design and construction
Changes to a project may have impacts on time, cost or quality. Broadly, the later in the development of the project that changes occur, the greater those impacts are likely to be.
At certain stages in the design process, a complete package of information will be provided for the client to approve. Once this approval has been given, a change control procedure may be introduced to ensure that the approved information is not changed without the express permission of the client.
The CIOB Code of practice for project management 4th edition, defines change control as 'A process that ensures potential changes to the deliverables of a project or the sequence of work in a project, are recorded, evaluated, authorised and managed.'
Examples of stages where change control procedures might be introduced include:
- At the end of the concept design stage if the project is tendered at this stage (for example on a design and build project).
- At the end of the concept design stage when the project brief (and employer's information requirements) might be frozen.
- During the detailed design stage when the detailed design, technical design and specification are finalised.
- During the tender stage when the tender documentation has been prepared.
- When the contractor is appointed and any further changes may qualify as variations.
It is important that the need for changes is minimised. This can be done by:
- Undertaking thorough site investigations and condition surveys.
- Ensuring that the project brief is comprehensive and is supported by stakeholders.
- Ensuring that legislative requirements are properly integrated into the project.
- Ensuring that risks are properly identified.
- Ensuring that designs are properly co-ordinated before tender.
It is common for the cost consultant to report on the estimated cost of changes and for the client to prioritise which changes are acceptable. The client may decide to fund additional costs from a design contingency. A change control procedure should clearly define the process by which changes are requested and approved and who is responsible for those processes, including:
- The reasons for the change.
- Who is requesting the change.
- The consequences of the change, including health and safety, time, quality, cost (and who will bear the cost).
- Proposals for mitigation of any consequences.
- The risks associated with the change.
- Alternatives to the proposed change.
- Time by which the change must be instructed.
There may then be:
- Client evaluation of whether the impact of the change is acceptable and whether the proposal provides value for money.
- Client instructions to the consultant team.
- Contract administrator instructions to the contractor.
The client may have to consider a number of requests for changes and may therefore need the appropriate information to be able to prioritise them relative to one another.
Change control procedures should be formally set out in a project quality plan to ensure that changes to controlled aspects of the project are referred for review to the right person at the right time and so that changes are properly documented and reflected in all project information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Abortive work.
- Common data environment.
- Construction industry knowledge standard.
- Cost control.
- Document control.
- End of stage report.
- Scope creep.
- Value engineering.
- Value management.
 External references
- OGC guidance on managing changes to requirements.
- OGC Achieving Excellence Guide 3 - Project ProcurementLifecyclepage 21.
- RICS draft guidance note: Managing the design delivery (including an example project change notice).
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